Review: The Vorkosigan books by Lois McMasterBujold

Toby Frost

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Iain M Banks' Culture series doesn't impress me at all.

I thought some of them were very good (it varies and they're nowhere near as funny as people make out) but they're definitely not hard SF. I have no idea what all those numbers mean. If they're some kind of formula for deciding how good a book is, I don't think it would work for me. I agree with @Vertigo's post.
 

Montero

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I have tried to read Iain M Banks and just didn't "get" them.

Regarding Vorkosigan to me one of the fascinations is the "what if" factor - how she has created so many different societies and how they are still busily changing. She also is very good at nuance - that nothing is simply all good or all bad. Beta Colony comes across as very advanced, but they still totally mistreat Cordelia though in the main starting from good intentions, due to completely misunderstanding what was going on. My favourite remains a Civil Campaign because what Bujold does to all those characters and to the society is absolute genius.
 

Vertigo

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As always it's horses for courses! I adore Banks, both his SF and non-SF, and would certainly say he scores on the nuanced good and bad front. They are maybe a little dense for some but I do just love them! Whilst there is some humour, mostly dark, I certainly wouldn't categorise them as 'funny.' I know some people rave about how funny the ship names are but to me they're an irrelevance. At the end of the day, they're just names which, apart from a couple of rare occasions where they give a hint to the ship's character, are of no importance beyond being identifiers. I find some of them amusing but no more than that.
 
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Brian G Turner

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I bought the Cordelia's Honor two book set, and agree the first read as a somewhat forced romance, but Barrayer really took it in an interesting new direction by comparison and quite enjoyed it - would have read more, and still have the third on my wishlist.

Interesting to see Trek fan-fiction mentioned, because that's exactly what I thought Weber's first read like - but with lots of pointless additional stuff tacked in. For example, the weak opening about tree cats, and an early chapter about nothing more than the tech specs of orbital platforms that played no part in the story. From that book alone I'm really surprised anyone wanted to read more! :D

I have tried to read Iain M Banks and just didn't "get" them.

I tried the first and DNF. It was like reading a 1950's space adventure, but far more grim. Did not enjoy it at all. Tried the one in a mediaeval setting after and found it didn't read as very mediaeval at all.
 

Vertigo

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I bought the Cordelia's Honor two book set, and agree the first read as a somewhat forced romance, but Barrayer really took it in an interesting new direction by comparison and quite enjoyed it - would have read more, and still have the third on my wishlist.

Interesting to see Trek fan-fiction mentioned, because that's exactly what I thought Weber's first read like - but with lots of pointless additional stuff tacked in. For example, the weak opening about tree cats, and an early chapter about nothing more than the tech specs of orbital platforms that played no part in the story. From that book alone I'm really surprised anyone wanted to read more! :D



I tried the first and DNF. It was like reading a 1950's space adventure, but far more grim. Did not enjoy it at all. Tried the one in a mediaeval setting after and found it didn't read as very mediaeval at all.
To be fair, those two are probably the two least representative of Banks's style. I didn't read Consider Phlebas until much later on and thought it the weakest when I did. Also to be fair it was, I think, his first published SF.
 

psikeyhackr

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I have no idea what all those numbers mean. If they're some kind of formula for deciding how good a book is, I don't think it would work for me. I agree with @Vertigo's post.
Yeah, I decided that the mean rating that everyone uses was inadequate and started experimenting with different formulas and just went OCD on it. Since different readers like and dislike books for different reasons any system based only on opinions will be somewhat questionable.

I even found a website that let me test the correlation between my ratings and Goodreads'. It was around 70%. I just disliked all books fitting between 1.00 and 5.00.

HP1 and the Sorcerer's Stone #1 by J.K. Rowling - - 1997

3319320 1242092 482585 108532 82974 on: March 19, 2018
G/BRat = 23.819 Xcp3Rat = 5.586 Star3Prd = 133.05
5,235,503 ratings @ Mean: 4.45
SF density 0.147; Fantasy density of 0.659

But I also compute SF and Fantasy density if I have the text. That is rather more objective.

The Sorcer's Stone beats Shards of Honor by my system but some of the later Vorkosigan books beat the later Harry Potter books.
 

psikeyhackr

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Screenshot_20220901-214518.jpg


That is the cover I bought way back when. It is rather inaccurate in relation to what was in the story.

Is this better?
Screenshot_20220901-215102.jpg


It is more accurate with Cordelia in front with her winterfair gift. Ludmilla with the uterine replicator and Sgt. Bothari are in the background. Cordelia's expression is too carefree though. Oh, just another search and destroy rescue mission. Yawn!
 
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Brian G Turner

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To be fair, those two are probably the two least representative of Banks's style. I didn't read Consider Phlebas until much later on and thought it the weakest when I did. Also to be fair it was, I think, his first published SF.
Yeah, I got that impression from reviews here - still have two more on my shelf I plan to get around to sometime: Use of Weapons and Player of Games.
 

Vertigo

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I would go for Player of Games first, although that is also a little unrepresentative but an easier read. Use of Weapons shifts a bit further towards Banks's grimmer style of writing and is also a slightly strange layout with two streams running in alternating chapters one is numbered 'normally' as one, two, three etc. and moving forward in time towards a climax and the other is in reverse Roman numbers as VII., VI, V etc. moving backwards in time to the same climax. It actually works very well once you've got the hang of it.
 

Toby Frost

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I thought that Consider Phlebas was very good, although the "Eaters" section could be skipped - IIRC, Banks himself later regretted writing it. Use of Weapons was generally decent, although two big dramatic moments struck me as weak and a bit silly. The Player of Games is really good, and the best thing by Banks that I've read.
 

Vertigo

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I thought that Consider Phlebas was very good, although the "Eaters" section could be skipped - IIRC, Banks himself later regretted writing it. Use of Weapons was generally decent, although two big dramatic moments struck me as weak and a bit silly. The Player of Games is really good, and the best thing by Banks that I've read.
Interestingly enough, without going into spoilers, the idea for the fire in Player of Games came from seeing either an actual fire or the remains of it that was/had burned along the vegetation of an American highway central reservation. (revealed in his whisky book!).
 

psikeyhackr

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I would go for Player of Games first, although that is also a little unrepresentative but an easier read.

I tried Player of Games because I was a chess addict in high school. I finished it but was unimpressed. I have tried 4 Culture books and finished 2. Look to Windward is the other one I finished.
 

Rodders

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I’m a fan of Bank’s Culture work and rate them very highly. The Player of Games is my favourite book. I recently read Surface Detail and The Hydrogen Sonata and loved them both.
 
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psikeyhackr

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I’m a fan of Bank’s Culture work and rate the, very highly. The Player of Games is my favourite book. I recently read Surface Detail and The Hydrogen Sonata and loved them both.
Fire phasers Mr. Sulu. LOL
 

psikeyhackr

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Something has happened to Goodreads' reviewers over the last 3 years. Maybe they are all taking the same drugs. If you compare my scores for G/BRat from 2018 to 2022 they consistently go down. But if you compare the Xcp3Rat for the same book 3+ years apart they go up.

Shards of Honor by Lois M. Bujold - - - - - 1986

9852• 9178• 4468• 902• 221 on: Nov 28, 18
G/BRat= 16.946 Xcp3Rat= 2.405 Star3Prd= 40.76
24621 ratings with a Mean: 4.12
SF density 0.509; Fantasy density of 0.060

13,079• 12,809• 6,350• 1,379• 431 on: Aug 31,2022
G/BRat= 14.302 Xcp3Rat= 4.592 Star3Prd= 65.672
34,048 ratings @ Mean: 4.08


Barrayar by Lois M. Bujold - - - - - - - - 1991

9807•7481• 2554• 342• 97 on: March 27, 2018
G/BRat= 39.38 Xcp3Rat= 3.864 Star3Prd= 152.16
20,281 ratings @ Mean: 4.31
SF density 0.425; Fantasy density of 0.071

13,147• 10,086• 3,444• 535• 220 Sept 2, 2022
G/BRat= 30.772 Xcp3Rat= 7.700 Star3Prd= 236.953
27,432 ratings1,151 reviews @ Mean 4.29


Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold - - - - - 1996

7480• 4585• 1285• 102• 13 on: October 23, 2018
G/BRat = 104.913 Xcp3Rat = 5.422 Star3Prd = 568.84
13,465 ratings @ Mean: 4.44
SF density 0.447; Fantasy density of 0.038

9,765• 5,948• 1,665• 218• 121 on: Aug 30, 2022
G/Brat= 46.351 Xcp3Rat= 10.903 Star3Prd= 505.36
17,740 ratings 861 reviews @ Mean 4.41


Komarr by Lois M. Bujold - - - - - - - - - 1999

5292•4976•1530•117•16 on: March 29, 2018
G/BRat= 77.203 Xcp3Rat= 3.788 Star3Prd= 292.44
11,931 ratings @ Mean: 4.29
SF density 0.847; Fantasy density of 0.018

7,458 • 6,744 • 2,032 • 256 • 124 Sept 2, 2022
G/BRat= 37.374 Xcp3Rat= 7.907 Star3Prd= 295.51
16,614 ratings 635 reviews @ Mean 4.27


A Civil Campaign Lois M. Bujold - - - - - - 1999

7910• 4488• 1412• 162• 38 on: November 26, 2018
G/BRat = 61.99 Xcp3Rat = 5.090 Star3Prd = 315.53
14010 ratings @ Mean: 4.43
SF density 0.348; Fantasy density of 0.047

10,139 • 5,843 • 1,851 • 303 • 148 Sept 2, 2022
G/BRat= 35.437 Xcp3Rat= 10.004 Star3Prd= 354.499
18,284 ratings 900 reviews @ Mean 4.40


Captain Vorpatril's Alliance by L M Bujold 2012

4374• 4503• 1630• 222• 57 on: March 27, 2018
G/BRat= 31.817 Xcp3Rat= 3.058 Star3Prd= 97.3
10,786 ratings @ Mean: 4.2 LMB.CptVorp.txt
SF density 0.398; Fantasy density of 0.023

6,412 • 6,207 • 2,267 • 365 • 158 Sept 2, 2022
G/BRat= 24.128 Xcp3Rat= 6.273 Star3Prd= 151.367
15,409 ratings 1,389 reviews @ Mean 4.19


The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks - - - - 1988

30,566 • 25,694 • 8,194 • 1,473 • 459 Sept 2, 2022
G/BRat= 29.120. Xcp3Rat= 7.799 Star3Prd= 227.09
66,386 ratings @ Mean 4.27


The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven - - - - - - - 1974

19858• 20949• 10588• 2030• 539 on: March 27, 2018
G/BRat = 15.884 Xcp3Rat = 2.161 Star3Prd = 34.33
53,964 ratings @ Mean: 4.07
SF density 1.425; Fantasy density of 0.055

25,305 •25,681 •12,729 •2,555 •856 on: Sept 3, 2022
G/BRat= 14.948 Xcp3Rat= 4.502 Star3Prd= 67.303
67,126 ratings 1,921 reviews @ Mean 4.07


There is no data for The Player of Games for 2018 but curiously it has the exact same Mean score as Komarr for 2022. I have been trying to figure out why the Means would remain so constant while both of my ratios change so consistently in opposite directions over 3+ years.

A lot of reviewers seem to not care about mediocrity anymore. Everything is either good or bad. So they rate 4 or 5 for good and 1 or 2 for bad, so the 3 stars don't increase as much as the others. 3 stars have no effect on G/BRat and 1 & 2 stars have no effect on Xcp3Rat.

Older readers are going to drop out of Goodreads over time. Maybe 3 years is long enough to show that effect. Younger readers may have no appreciation for nuance.
 
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psikeyhackr

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That is the first review of Komarr where the reviewer commented on the scientific analysis of the "fantasy physics" of the FTL.

If there is ever any form of FTL the scientists and engineers will have to have some understanding of how it works so a fictional story where that physics is central part of the plot needs rational discussion by the characters. That is lacking in vast amounts of so called science fiction. So when an author does it then it is worthy of note by the reviewer.
 

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